Jun 26 2017

Remembering Listener In, TV Scene

It is 30 years ago this week that Melbourne’s TV Scene ceased publication after 62 years.

Listener In, August 1935

It began as a radio magazine, Listener In, in 1925. By 1937 it had converted to a newspaper format.

With television arriving in 1956, the Listener In showed it was adapting with the times… by adding “TV” to the title.  As part of the Herald and Weekly Times (HWT) group, Listener In-TV had a natural affinity to the company’s new television station, HSV7, but was not to ignore Melbourne’s other TV channels, though they may not have always been given the same prominence in coverage.

Listener In-TV would continue to breathlessly cover the local and national showbiz industry and all the celebrity news — with the headlines often dominated by Melbourne’s showbiz elite. People like Graham Kennedy, Bert and Patti Newton, Don Lane, Bill Collins, Mary Hardy, Denise Drysdale and Ernie Sigley were rarely far from the front page.

By 1976 the name had been changed to Scene and the cover pages were now in full colour, with limited colour on the inside pages.

Being a newspaper format Scene inevitably found the going tough up against the glossy, though more expensive, TV Week.  An attempt to revamp Scene as TV Scene, with a glossy cover but maintaining the newspaper format, in the mid-1980s failed to achieve any significant growth.

tvscene_0002While TV Week was hitting circulation highs of 800,000 nationally during the 1980s, TV Scene with its more conservative and ageing readership was declining — a situation not helped by the growing trend of newspapers publishing their own weekly TV listings.

By 1987, weekly sales of TV Scene had fallen to around 60,000.  The media takeover frenzy that engulfed various radio, television and print media assets at the time saw TV Scene move from HWT to the ownership of Southdown Press, publishers of TV Week.  Southdown had endeavoured to maintain TV Scene and made budget cuts where possible but found it was unsustainable.

The day after the edition dated 27 June 1987 hit the newsstands, Southdown Press made the decision to wind up the 62-year-old publication.  TV Scene’s remaining full-time staff were transferred to TV Week and the title was given a farewell with a two-page pictorial in the centre pages of The Sun newspaper at the end of the week.

Below are just a handful of the covers to have graced Listener In-TV and TV Scene over its long history:






TV Scene’s final edition, 27 June 1987

Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/remembering-listener-in-tv-scene.html

Jun 25 2017

Australia goes live to Our World

YouTube: watvhistory

Only weeks after Australia was seeing Expo 67 live from Canada, the nation was once again linked to the Northern Hemisphere for a satellite television event.

Our World was a two-hour real-time snapshot of a day in the life of 14 countries. Featuring live reports, beamed to the control centre at BBC in London before being broadcast across the world, with the help of four international satellites and various microwave and cable links, Our World was a television first.  It was estimated that 400 to 700 million viewers watched the program across 24 countries. (This number could have been as high as 30, except that the Soviet Union and a group of Eastern Bloc countries withdrew their participation in the program a week before going to air)

Australia was the only Southern Hemisphere nation to take part in the program, with three segments featured.

The first featured ABC reporter Brian King bringing the world the sight of a Melbourne tram departing from the depot to start its working day. It was just past 5.00am on a cold Monday morning — 26 June 1967 — but this seemingly pedestrian view of Australiana was selected by Our World‘s British producers as a stark reminder to viewers in the Northern Hemisphere that while they were watching TV in a warm summer’s Sunday afternoon or evening, it was a dark and cold Monday morning down under.

The segment was also to be of an education to American viewers that Australia is a migrants’ country, too, as the tram conductress featured was from Europe.

The other two segments from Australia highlighted the country’s scientific endeavours. ABC journalist Eric Hunter was in Canberra to report from the Canberra phytotron, a laboratory in which plants can be grown under a wide range of controlled climatic conditions; and it was then off to Parkes, to the giant radio telescope (pictured below) to track a deep space object.

Hosting the Australian broadcast of Our World was James Dibble from the ABC studios in Sydney, accompanied by commentators John West, David Hawkes and Margaret Throsby, who would provide English commentary for parts of the program being presented in foreign languages.

By the end of the program, as well as Australia, viewers had been taken to Japan, Mexico, Italy, Austria, Denmark, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Spain, France, Sweden, Tunisia and West Germany. The two-hour event came to an end with a live cross to a recording studio in London, where The Beatles were recording their single All You Need Is Love.

Our World was produced in black-and-white although footage of the Beatles’ recording session was later colourised.

More than 200 people were involved in the Australian component of the program, representing ABC, Postmaster General, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and NASA. It was estimated that globally as many as 10,000 were involved in the making of Our World.


Source: TV Week, 17 June 1967. TV Times, 21 June 1967.  The Age, 22 June 1967. Sydney Morning Herald, 27 June 1967. Wikipedia.



Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/australia-goes-live-to-our-world.html

Jun 18 2017

When Temptation came to Katamatite

YouTube: Australian Television Archive

tonybarberdotkilgourIt’s not often that the small Victorian town of Katamatite makes news, but in September 1973 it was the most famous town in Australia.

The reason for its sudden fame was a woman called Dot Kilgour, a mother of three who operated the town’s single-pump petrol station with her husband Harry.

Kilgour had been a champion on the Seven Network quiz show Great Temptation — winning a prize pool worth $25,000, including a $3000 diamond, furniture worth $2000, a car, a $2400 boat, a mink coat and $8000 cash — after answering correctly 65 out of 71 questions.

It was a big day for the town (population: 365 at the time) when Great Temptation host Tony Barber visited the Kilgours to deliver Dot’s prizes.

Barber, a TV Week Gold Logie winner earlier the year, was welcomed at the Kilgours’ with a home-cooked casserole before going out to meet the various townsfolk and to sign autographs.

He described Kilgour as a “pressure player” and “super cool”, though she remained modest. “I don’t think I’m a quiz champion, rather someone who has struck it lucky,” she told Listener In-TV. “I think I won because I’m a great reader. Everything from toilet tissues to the ads and encyclopedias. Harry wrote to Great Temptation last year saying I could answer all the questions and to give me a go. They did.”

And what about the show’s host? “Tony? He’s a bright, outgoing sort of fellow. I’ve been watching Tony for years — ducking backwards and forwards from the kitchen sink to see his show on the telly.”

So what did Dot plan to do with her winnings? “I don’t know what we’ll do with the money,” she said. “We have to paint our house. Some of the prizes I’ll have to sell. The mink coat, for example. I’m not a fur coat-minded person. So you can see we’re just normal country working class people.”

And Katamatite has probably never rated much of a mention anywhere ever since.


Source: Listener In-TV, 29 September 1973.



Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/when-temptation-came-to-katamatite.html

Jun 17 2017

Government confirms the axe to Community TV broadcasting

Community television is set to go off the air at the end of this month.

Melbourne’s C31 has issued a statement to say that the government, namely the Department of Communications and Communications Minister Senator Mitch Fifield, has denied the sector, which also includes channels in Adelaide and Perth, any extension beyond the current end of June deadline to go off air.

The sector was initially given a 12-month reprieve from switching off at the end of 2015, and then a further six-month extension at the end of 2016 — to allow the operators time to migrate to an online platform.

Already, Sydney’s TVS and Brisbane’s 31 Digital have exited the airwaves. The latter has since migrated to QLD Online.

The government has yet, still, to outline what actual plans it has for the precious one-channel of broadcast spectrum that the community operators occupied in each city — or indeed why it has felt the need to evict community television from the airwaves in what is still considered to be a brief time frame.

C31’s statement from General Manager Matthew Field follows:

Unfortunately after a three-year battle and two extensions of our transmitter licence we have today received a letter from Minister Fifield confirming his intention to switch off our free-to-air signal on June 30 this year.

As many of you know, we have fought long and hard to convince Minister Fifield and the Department of Communications that our access to spectrum should be aligned to our broadcast licence, awarded by the ACMA until June 2019, based on this organisation’s financial strength and demonstrable commitment to being open access and supporting media diversity. The reality is that the spectrum we currently occupy is valuable and there is no doubt that in the future demand for spectrum will be driven by the data and digital economy, but we have not been able to establish why there is such a rushed determination to kick us off air in the absence of any planned alternative use of our spectrum before 2019. In the context of the explosion of shopping and racing channels on free-to-air TV, the instability of Network Ten, and concerns around the lack of diverse Australian voices in mainstream media, it is particularly puzzling that Community TV should be so readily kicked off free-to-air.

Despite the frustration caused by the decision, C31 has been hard at work on the transition. We have been developing our digital platforms, and building our capacity to support diverse groups of content creators to produce content that is optimised for online distribution. We will maintain our linear stream channel beyond July 1. This channel is accessible on our suite of apps for web, mobile, tablets, Apple TVs and Android-enabled Smart TVs, and we are pleased to report that audiences are on the rise.

If you have not downloaded our apps, get around us! We encourage all producers to contact us to find out how we can support you to keep producing content, whether it is destined for the linear broadcast channel, for Video on Demand (VOD), or for social media platforms. Facebook Live video is now pulling in extraordinary audiences and C31 staff members are now YouTube Certified. We are excited by the potential to connect niche CTV content with global social media audiences.

In support of a sustainable business model, we have launched a production unit offering live webcasting and production services to cultural events and festivals, local sports organisations and councils. This unit is powered by our internship and volunteer programs; 30 young media hopefuls from diverse backgrounds have been offered paid employment on C31 productions in the past 12 months alone.

We are developing a social enterprise unit – Community Builder – that aims to support the NFP and NGO sector to create digital content that is optimised for online audiences. We have also developed a digital offering for our small business community that supports local business owners to capitalise on social media as a marketing platform.

Despite the challenges of the last few years, I’m confident that C31 is evolving into a digital media organisation that will retain the values of access, participation and diversity, and that we can continue to support the next generation of content creators for many years to come.

Stick with us.

C31 has been broadcasting since October 1994, initially under a temporary broadcasting licence. It was given a permanent licence in 2004 but this did not include access to digital spectrum.

It was not until 2009 that access to digital broadcast was permitted by the then Labor government, using spectrum reserved for datacasting that had not been utilised. Even then it was only on a temporary basis, which the current government has now ceased to extend further.



Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/government-confirms-the-axe-to-community-tv-broadcasting.html

Jun 14 2017

Network Ten in administration… and viewers show the love

Lots of uncertainty but lots of love for the Ten Network as the network goes into voluntary administration.

The announcement of the appointment of administrators comes after trading in Ten shares was halted on Tuesday.

In a media release issued earlier today, Ten stated:

“The Directors of Ten regret very much that these circumstances have come to pass. They wish to take this opportunity to thank all Ten employees and contractors for their commitment and enthusiasm for Ten’s programs and business. In particular, they would like to express their sincere gratitude, respect and admiration for Ten’s leadership team, who have achieved everything the Board has asked them to do over the past few years in very challenging circumstances. They wish Ten and its management Ten all success in the future as the Administrators look to the potential sale or recapitalisation of the business.”

The appointed administrators, restructuring firm KordaMentha, have subsequently announced:

“Customers, employees and other stakeholders are assured that the administrators intend to keep the business running. Viewers can expect the same content that they currently enjoy on Network Ten. The appointment will allow the voluntary administrators to explore options for the recapitalisation or sale of Network Ten.”

Meanwhile, under the hashtag #FixNetworkTen, viewers have taken to Twitter to share memories of their favourite Network Ten programs — mostly from times gone by:


Source: Network Ten, Network Ten, The Age

Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/network-ten-in-administration-and-viewers-show-the-love.html

Jun 08 2017

Obituary: Jill Singer

Jill Singer, award-winning journalist and former host of Today Tonight, has died at the age of 60.

She was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder earlier this year.

Singer’s career began at ABC radio in 1984, working her way up to television to a reporting role for The 7.30 Report and as producer of breakfast program First Edition.

She also had a stint at the Ten Network in the 1980s, reporting for its current affairs show Page One.

The Seven Network signed her up to host the Victorian edition of its new current affairs program, Today Tonight, in 1995.

Promising a more serious tone than its rivals or predecessors, Today Tonight soon made headlines of its own. In 1996, Singer fainted during a commercial break after having to announce that a politically sensitive story on Victorian premier Jeff Kennett had been pulled by Seven’s management at the last minute. Singer later recalled it was withdrawn to “placate the premier”. The report in question did go to air the following night, earning Today Tonight its highest ratings.

Singer and others associated with the report were later told their services were no longer required at Seven, with Singer replaced on-air by Naomi Robson, and Today Tonight began its slide into tabloid reporting.

Singer went on to become a long-running columnist for the Herald Sun and taught journalism at RMIT.

Her accolades included a Walkley and joint winner of two Quill awards for journalism.

In April this year she married Anthony Broad.

Source: The Age, ABC, Four Corners


Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/obituary-jill-singer.html

Jun 05 2017

Expo 67: Satellite TV makes history

Television by satellite came to Australia in the mid-1960s — with two special event programs that brought the world to bleary eyed Australians in the early hours of the morning.

The first such program was a live coverage of Australia’s contribution to Expo 67, being held in Montreal, Canada. Tuesday, 6 June 1967 was “Australia Day” at the Expo and it was heralded with a live satellite transmission to Australia’s eastern states and South Australia.

To bring the pictures to Australia, the signal was first directed from a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) outside broadcast van situated at the Expo site. From there the signal was sent by microwave to the NASA satellite tracking station at Rosman, North Carolina. The Rosman station then sent the signal across the Pacific Ocean via NASA’s ATS-B satellite in orbit above the equator.

The signal was then picked up in Australia at the tracking station located at Cooby Creek, near Toowoomba, Queensland. From there the signal is carried via the PMG-ABC microwave networks to the ABC studios in Gore Hill, Sydney.

While all that was going on the sound component of the broadcast was delivered via a different route — via the COMPAC cable that connects Vancouver to Sydney via Hawaii, Fiji and New Zealand.

Because of the two different methods of transmission, the sound was due to arrive at Gore Hill around an eighth of a second before the pictures come in via satellite. It was at the Gore Hill studios that the two components were to be synchronised up.

Given the time difference it was 12.45am (AEST) on Wednesday 7 June when ABC reporter Eric Hunter (pictured) introduced what was the first direct satellite transmission from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere.

This was followed at 1.00am by the official opening of the day from Expo’s Place de Nations — the arena which each country occupied on its particular “national” day — including a speech from Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt.

At 1.40am the telecast switched to a half-hour pre-recorded presentation of Australia’s exhibition at Expo.

At 2.15am the first part of the telecast came to a close. Viewers had a 90-minute break — and perhaps some sleep — before transmission from Montreal was scheduled to resume.

The second installment of the telecast commenced at 3.45am. Viewers were treated to coverage of some of the demonstrations taking place at the arena — including sheep dogs, woodchopping, timber felling, boomerang throwing and an Australian-American tennis match.

Then came the entertainment highlight of the day, Pop Goes Australia! The concert featured entertainer and TV host Bobby Limb (pictured as he appeared on screen) and his band, pop star Normie Rowe, singing group The Seekers and performer Rolf Harris.

The telecast came to an end at around 8.30am — leaving many tired viewers to face the new day with very little sleep.

Limb wrote of his experience of the event for TV Week: “We had been warned that the people were not friendly, two-thirds of them only spoke French — and that they were the toughest audience in the world.

“After we arrived, the rehearsal was a debacle — everything went wrong. There we were, The Seekers, Rolf Harris, Kathy Lloyd, Frank Donnellan, Normie Rowe, The Playboys, the Australian All-Stars Band and I — all petrified.”

“Now the show: we opened with the theatre in darkness then recorded cooees done by eight voices in Australia, then Long John Laws‘ voice introducing ‘the youngest nation” finishing with Pop Goes Australia.”

“The show was a tremendous success and at the reception all concerned were thrilled. Closing the show are The Seekers. It’s not necessary for me to dwell on the reception they receive. Every night they literally stop the show.”

“All of us in Australia can feel very proud — our Pavilion is marvellous, the Australian Ballet was tremendous and our show is going great.”

Back in Australia, television personality, ATV0‘s Jimmy Hannan was among those to watch the all-night telecast. “It was marvellous,” he told TV Week. “The first thing I did this morning was send a telegram congratulating Bobby Limb. I thought he put on a great little show.”

ABC’s chief supervising engineer in Melbourne, Colin Stockbridge, was pleased with the end result: “We were delighted. It certainly justified all the hard work and planning that went into the operation. There were very few defects.”

Although ABC was the Australian host broadcaster, given the technical significance of the event the program was also simulcast through the commercial networks, who all broadcast the program commercial-free. In Melbourne, HSV7 supplemented its coverage with a 15-minute preview before the ABC’s introduction, and GTV9 also added a half-hour program, It’s A Big Wide Wonderful World, which documented the history and previous efforts at bringing long distance television to our screens.

Expo 67 was shown live across the eastern states, stretching from Cairns down to Hobart, and across to Adelaide and Port Pirie in South Australia. With no direct link to Western Australia, viewers in that state were to see a videotaped version of the program a few days later.

TV Times critic Frank Doherty, while marvelling at the technical achievement in bringing pictures and sound from Canada to Australia within a fraction of a second, was left underwhelmed by the show that was presented: “Once you got over the slight excitement of knowing that what you were watching and hearing was taking place that very second in Canada the whole thing was as flat as a Sydney beer left standing for five minutes.”

The history making Expo 67 broadcast was to serve as a prelude to a much larger television event. Later in the same month, more than 500 million viewers around the world were expected to witness the two-hour global television event, Our World. Australia was one of 14 countries to contribute to that program.

Source: National Museum Of Australia. TV Times, 31 May 1967, 21 June 1967. TV Week, 17 June 1967,



Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/expo-67-satellite-tv-makes-history.html

Jun 04 2017

Obituary: John K Watts

Perth sporting and media identity John K Watts has died at the age of 80.

Watts had been diagnosed with a form of bone cancer in 2011, after previously having prostate cancer.

Watts’ son Jon posted a tribute to his father on Facebook: “I am in absolute shock by it all as he was more than just a regular dad, he was my confidant, friend, accomplice, drinking buddy, singing partner, comedian, and so much more.

“Words cannot express my deep sadness and I am sincerely at a loss as to what to do. Sleep well mate – and thanks for all the memories. I love you so very much and I have no idea really how to go on from here.”

Watts played 166 games for East Perth between 1954 and 1962 before playing for Geelong from 1963 to 1965.

After retiring from football in 1968, Watts began a successful media career in Perth across both radio and television.

He was a sports presenter for many years at TVW7, previewing upcoming football games and hosting a local footy talk show.

John K Watts is survived by wife Lorraine, sons Jon and Luke and daughters Joanna, Donna and Vanessa.

Source: WA TV History, WA Today, The West


Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/obituary-john-k-watts.html

Jun 01 2017

Obituary: Lyn James

Lyn James, best known to Australians as hospital secretary Helen Gordon in The Young Doctors, has died at the age of 87.

Born in Wales, James made her professional debut in 1949 as Marilyn James, working as a theatre actor in the UK, and then moving onto television roles. Some of her television credits included Nicholas Nickleby, medical drama Emergency Ward 10 and its spin-off, Call Oxbridge 2000.

She married fellow actor Eric Tayler and with their two young children came to Australia in the mid 1960s, when Tayler was offered a contract with ABC.

James scored guest roles in various Australian dramas including Contrabandits, Hunter, Homicide (pictured with co-star Kenric Hudson), Dynasty, Catwalk, Matlock Police, Division 4, Ryan, The Evil Touch, Silent Number and Case For The Defence.

In 1976, she scored the role of secretary Helen Gordon in the Nine Network‘s new series The Young Doctors.

At the time of the show’s debut, James (pictured with co-stars Michael Beecher and Alfred Sandor) described Helen as “a straightforward lady and even though she has the best intentions she tends to interfere a bit. It’s an interesting role and it does give me the chance to smile again. When I’ve done parts for Crawfords I always seem to be playing a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”

The series was a hit in Australia and also gained a following in the United Kingdom.

James was one of only a handful of cast members to stay with The Young Doctors for its entire six-year duration.

Later TV credits included telemovies The Rock Pool and Olive, children’s series Coral Island and police dramas Bony and Young Lions.

Lyn James is survived by her two children, Nicholas and Sally, and grandchildren. Husband Eric died in 1997.

Source: Daily Telegraph, ATV Today, IMDB. TV Week, 5 September 1970. TV Times, 4 December 1976. TV Times, 18 November 1978.




Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/06/obituary-lyn-james.html

May 11 2017

Obituary: Mark Colvin

Mark Colvin, ABC journalist across radio and television, has died in a Sydney hospital at the age of 65.

English-born Colvin came to Australia as a 21-year-old and joined ABC as a cadet journalist in 1974.

His work was mostly in radio, including the early years of 2JJ (now Triple J) and current affairs programs The World Today and, for many years, PM.

In 1979 he moved to television as one of the founding reporters for current affairs program Nationwide.

He later served as a reporter for Four Corners for four years and then was appointed London current affairs correspondent, reporting for programs including The 7.30 Report, Lateline and Foreign Correspondent.

In a statement issued earlier today, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie paid tribute to Colvin: “For many Australians, Mark’s steady and measured voice as host of PM brought them the essential news of the day and kept them informed about events of national and international importance.

“We will miss him enormously, and extend our thoughts to his family and friends.”

ABC Director, News Gaven Morris said: “Mark was one of Australia’s finest journalists. He leaves an unfillable void as a journalist, a colleague and a friend.

“He was an important part of the ABC community as a mentor and teacher to young reporters and as a voice of wisdom and experience to many older ones. Our reporters and producers felt strengthened by his presence in the newsroom and emboldened by the sound of his voice on our airwaves.”

Tributes for Colvin came from many across the wider journalism community and from politics — including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Minister for Communications, Senator Mitch Fifield,

Mark Colvin is survived by his mother, Anne, his wife Michelle and his two sons, Nicolas and William.

Nationwide‘s Mark Colvin (left) with Bill Nicol, Paul Griffiths, Clive Hale, Paul Murphy and Richard Carleton. Source: TV Times, 24 March 1979

Source: ABC, ABC, Sydney Morning Herald



Permanent link to this article: http://televisionau.com/2017/05/obituary-mark-colvin.html

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